Compliance Conversations: Is Remote Auditing Effective?

Posted by Craig Thornton

With countries around the world on lock-down, in some form another, remote auditing is becoming essential to ensure the ongoing compliance of your business 

In this video series, Peter Rogers from Mango discusses the challenge of remote auditing with compliance consultants around the world.

The consultants give us some techniques and insights on how to perform effective remote auditing.

This is #3 in a series 5 compliance conversations about remote auditing.

The question we answer in this conversation is "Are Remote Audits Effective?" 

Check out the video here:

 

Are Remote Audits Effective?

 
Nicholas, SRM, South Africa

I'm sitting on the fence with regards to the effectiveness of remote audits.

When you're auditing, you're auditing against evidence. 

One of the challenges that we found is that a lot of communication that we had between human beings is non-verbal. So when you're interviewing somebody, you don't necessarily have the ability to be able to pick up those cues that people are giving you, when you're physically interviewing somebody. I think that bit is lost.

If you're just interviewing somebody over audio, if you've got video, it doesn't prove it. But I think nobody is really going to do away with a face-to-face interview where you are doing an audit.

So, yes, from a documentation oversight review perspective, I think remote auditing can be done very effectively. That is if you're just checking documentation and documented evidence.

Mark, Business Basics, Australia

Depends on the client.

Smaller clients are not as prepared. Because trying to go and do all this 'stuff' while still: running their business; driving trucks; driving excavators; or whatever they're doing. To spend time to sit there and get all this stuff done. It is too complicated; it was too hard for them. Whereas before they just you turn up and they’d sit at the desk and say, “off you go, have fun, I got work to do to keep the company running”.

The larger clients, it was effective because they had the time to dedicate to do it because they've got dedicated resources to actually do the work.

Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics, Australia

Absolutely. From the desktop side of things, as effective or sometimes possibly even more effective.

One of the things is you can be talking to multiple people, in very quick succession, or looking at multiple sites very easily.

And clients that are using a system that has all that in one place, you can remotely do a desktop type audit very easily.

I guess from the point of view of doing the on-site, verification stuff, of processes, what have you, that's the part that requires a little bit more attention. But absolutely, I think they're effective for sure.

Peter, Mango, New Zealand

I believe that we as humans, we always go to what we know. But I think with COVID-19, we've had to think outside the box one. What wasn't possible, now is possible.  I hear people say things like

‘we can't do high risk auditing because we need to be there on site.’

I just think it's a matter of time, at some point, we have to find innovative ways to do that. Because we still have to audit that process, and we still can't go there.

We need to give ourselves assurances so we're going to find other ways to do it, whether it's people carrying the phone around with them and letting an auditor observe something.

Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics, Australia

That’s what we've done, carrying the phone around. It works fine as long as you've got a decent internet connection going there, it works pretty well.

One of the things I've found, a big change in the last 'COVID' four months, has been people are so much more comfortable with this video, chat and anything remote.

Prior to that you would have got so many fences put up in front of you, just to say it can't be done. Now, it has to be done.

People just come around to the idea, and they’ve got themselves used to Zoom and all the other platforms out there.

We're creatures of habit and we get used to the way things have always been done, and that's the way it was done last year, the year before, and the year before, this (COVID) has sort of pushed our hand a little bit.

Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

I'm a big believer in efficiency.

I have been from a very young age, when I started in the electronics industry, whatever effort you put in, you've got to get a return on it.

One of the things I find is that if you spend a lot of time traveling. You spend a lot of time moving about places in order just to see documentation. If you can be doing that more efficiently like sitting at your desk, then I think you're using your time more effectively. And I think you are using your client's time more effectively as well.

I think one of the benefits I've probably gained out of it is that I've actually probably dedicated a little bit more effort in areas that I maybe didn't before.

Because I've had that benefit of having a little bit more time, I've not had to factor in travel, I've not had to factor in, time saying hello to people walking around the site, things like that.  I've gained a bit more time that's allowed me to use that more effective.

Andrew, IRM Systems, Australia

Overall, I found them surprisingly effective, no real detraction from an on-site audit that much. You do need to be planning prepared.

If you understand the key hazards and risks ahead of time, let your contact person know that you want to spend time looking at those things i.e if it's an overhead crane or something in a manufacturing plant.

But also let them know ahead of time that normally, in an on-site audit, if I do a site walk, I can have a quick chat to some of the operational team members there. Audits never attest to their knowledge, but just ‘Are they aware of the hazards associated with the overhead crane?’ (if that's what they're using, or mobile plant, whatever you want to discuss on the day).

It's always good to do that in an on-site audit, so one thing I do plan into the audit is to say

‘I'd still like to do a site walk, we'll do it via FaceTime or WhatsApp, something like that. Here's some of the items I already want you to go and have a look at that relate to the high-risk kind of hazards. But along the way, I want to be able to just have a quick chat to some of the operational staff just as I would in a normal site audit.’

That's really helped, and that's understanding that you're going to need to do that, that it is really a strategy to minimize, the impact of it not being on site.

You've got to do it diplomatically and tactfully, but let the audit contact know that. Give them a little bit of a heads up prior to the audit, that I don't want to just speak to the safety manager, or the production manager, I do want to speak to some of the operational staff as we go through.That's been important and there’s no drop off in the effectiveness if you plan it really well.

Gary, QSM Group, Australia

I think they're effective and I think they tend to be more focused. This is because when you're on site with an audit, the natural human bit is to have a few discussions with people talk about your fishing trip last week and all that sort of stuff. You tend not to do that when you're doing a remote audit, you tend to focus on the actual task on hand.

Importantly, we just do remote audits for Mango clients. All the information is there in the one spot, so you then tie all that information and link that information to the actual audit report itself, and the audit report becomes a very comprehensive document,

    • with live links to the supporting process you're actually auditing or
    • links to records that support conformance to a particular process.

The audits are actually pretty comprehensive from a remote perspective. When you go out on site, they tend to be less comprehensive, for whatever reason, because you're not focusing on getting the actual documented information that support conformity.

 

Takeaway

  1. Remote auditing can be a more efficient use of time.
  2. Let the auditee know that you'd like to do a 'walk through' using mobile phones, iPads, Tablets, etc
  3. Video auditing is preferred over just audio.
  4. Remote audits are more cost effective for clients.

 

Tags: Compliance, External Audit, Compliance Conversations, Remote Auditing